Anatomy of a Player(7)

By: Cindi Madsen

He was my boy and all, but sometimes he didn’t know when to shut his mouth. I gritted my teeth in an approximation of a smile, reached for the backpack I’d dumped next to the coffee table, and dug out my stupid statistics book.

I opened it to the homework assignment and scribbled down an answer that I was pretty sure wasn’t correct.

Dane frowned at it. “Bro, you know you’ve got to read the chapters to get the answers, right?”

There he went, not knowing when to shut his mouth. We’d grown up in the same neighborhood in the Bronx—his house was a couple of streets down from the low-income apartment complex my mom and I lived in. I’d ended up in countless fights because he had no filter, but even when he said something dumb, I couldn’t not rise to his defense.

“You think you can do better?” I shoved my book at him. “Go for it.”

Dane poked a finger into the spine, sliding it back to me. “No way. There’s a reason I signed up for all the classes with teachers known for going easy on hockey players.”

I’d tried to register for classes with those types, too, but I’d found that thanks to their studying social behaviors, sociology professors had this superiority complex about treating everyone equally. Now I was in a class with a teacher who probably didn’t even know what hockey was, much less cared about it.

Strike that. She probably thought it was overly violent and bad for society in general. The thing was, as challenging as they were, I’d loved my classes last year. Even the ones that highlighted the many ways my family fit into the screwed-up dynamic—at least I better understood some of my motivations, as well as my mom’s.

Professor Hummel seemed to be teaching with the sole purpose of weeding out the weak. All the statistics bothered me, too. Like every life and problem was just a statistic, and more data for us to analyze, not a person with problems that were consuming their world, unique or not. Plus, adding math to anything was just extra evil.

Half the time I felt like a fraud attending a college like this anyway, and sitting in that class just accentuated the fact that I didn’t belong—not only because I struggled to keep up, but also because the materials we covered made me either want to hide or defend myself. Hell, I’d even internally justified my mom’s actions from time to time, despite telling myself I was done doing that. Those types of reactions would allow everyone to see right through me for sure. As it was, I suspected several of my classmates thought the only reason I was here was because I was good at hockey. Which was the truth, but I’d told myself that if I earned a degree, how I’d ended up at BC didn’t matter. What mattered was becoming something more than a sad statistic.

Too bad I didn’t understand how to calculate statistics or when to use them, just that most of the numbers suggested I’d fail.

“What about the TA?” Dane asked. “Male or female?”

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about working that angle. “Feminist. The preachy kind.”

Dane made a sour face. “A bi-curious male would’ve been better. But still. Don’t tell me you can’t work some of that Decker charm on her? Maybe make her see the light?”

I didn’t want to admit she might be beyond my charms, but I’d had a conversation with her that proved she was—when she’d handed back my test with the big F on the front, she’d seemed pretty damn gleeful about it. There were other girls in class, but I hadn’t had time to feel them out. It was just run from one class to another, then to the rink. Not to mention extra cardio and weight-lifting sessions.

The door swung open and our other roommate came in and tossed his backpack aside. “Who’s ready to hit the weight room?” Ryder grabbed the duffle bag that held his gym clothes and hiked it up on his shoulder. Everyone called him “Ox” because his last name was Maddox, he was the biggest guy on the team despite only being a sophomore, and when he charged a guy, you could practically see the steam coming out of his nostrils.

He worked harder than any of the other guys to remain a starter, too, which made me feel lazy, and I spent at least half of my day training. “Spot me, Decker?”